Eulogy in Tribute to Dadwritten & delivered by Doug Mayoff
Nov 11, 2014
While unquestionably sad to lose my father, today I am humbled to pay tribute and honour Sol Mayoff, for being the man and father he was.
My father was my best friend, my confidant, my biggest booster and supporter.
From a humble and difficult beginning, my father raised a large family and enjoyed great success in business, affording us a privileged life, including summer camps, private schools & vacations– though careful to never overindulge us, we lacked for nothing and always and to this day we all remain so grateful for everything he provided – including a strong sense of value.
My father had an inherently strong work ethic, and a sense of fair play - always.
He was the most devoted, reliable father one could ever hope for. Growing up, we always knew he had our backs - that we could always count on him.
He loved his family deeply and embraced the responsibility of caring and providing for his family including his extended family with total devotion - he was so determined always to do the RIGHT thing.
He was an extremely proud man, dignified, and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He had impeccable manners, and growing up sitting around the dinner table we were taught likewise.
How it was while growing up so simply & poor, he was able to develop these traits, can only be attributed to his burning desire to succeed, in life – and all it had to offer.
Blessed with 2 wonderful parents, it's been a long memory filled journey along the road, of life. Family events and daily life often centered around the same family home, where my father lived for 62 years.
My siblings and I were honoured to have the parents we did and to the best of our ability, returned the devotion both my parents showed for the 5 of us, to the 2 of them, and right until their last breaths.
The last of his 6 brothers & sisters, he was the Mayoff family Patriarch, and to quote my cousin Gail who put it so beautifully, “like the good soldier he was trained to be, dad stood his post as long as he could.”
One final memory… As I did most mornings, I dropped in to check on dad on my way to work the other day. It was this past Thursday November 6th and my 62nd birthday. My father had barely uttered a word these past months. I looked him straight in the eyes, reminded him who I was, told him it was my birthday and asked if he'd like to wish me a happy birthday.
The last words I will have ever heard from my father, was a purposeful, Happy Birthday Dougie.
As was always his wish, my father drew his last breath Sunday evening in his own bedroom on Dufferin Road.
Now finally – rest in peace my dearest sweet father.
Grandpa Solwritten & delivered by Ricky Black
When I think of my Grandpa Sol, the first word that comes to mind is “patriarch”. Anyone who knew my grandfather in his prime would have sensed it immediately. His handsome good looks and sharp, probing mind were the first obvious signs of a man who lived his life with a strong sense of purpose and determination.
My grandfather was born on February 15, 1920, the son of working-class immigrants from Eastern Europe, and he didn't enjoy an easy start in life. One of seven siblings, his mother Dora passed away when he was only four years old. Sol was placed in an orphanage for nearly a year, his father being unable to care for all the children on his own.
1930, the year Sol turned ten, marked the beginning of the great depression. He ended up leaving school in the seventh grade at the age of 13, never to return, forced to work and to contribute to his large family's needs. Young people today cannot begin to understand what life was like back then for a young Jewish man struggling to make it in a harsh and unforgiving world. Life hit fast, and it hit hard.
Working his way through various jobs over the next ten years, in 1943 Sol married my late grandmother Zelda, a woman who came from a close-knit and loving family that welcomed him in like a son. He was soon shipped off the West Coast to serve in the Canadian forces during the Second World War. Always looking to make a buck wherever he could, Sol began to buy and sell watches while he was in the military, an activity that led to the eventual formation of a partnership with his friend Sam Baker, and a company named Continental Jewelry. In time, Continental became one of Canada's leading manufacturers and importers of costume and mass-market jewelry, its products sold across the country.
The success of that business allowed my grandfather to begin to enjoy a quality of life he could have only dreamed of as a younger man. It also enabled him to provide for the family he had created with my grandmother. There were five children in all, starting with my mother Donna in 1944. Robert, Doug, Richard and Bonnie followed over the next 15 years.
In 1952, at the age of 32, Sol bought a newly-built house on Dufferin Road in Hampstead, the home he lived in until he passed away this past Sunday night. It was a world apart from the rough immigrant neighborhood around the Main where he grew up. That house at 325 Dufferin soon became a hive of activity and the base of the Mayoff family, a place where multiple generations of us would gather to eat together and celebrate important occasions over the ensuing decades. The word “Dufferin” became synonymous with Mayoff family headquarters, as in “I'll see you at Dufferin”.
As his business continued to grow, my grandfather began to develop other interests as well. He was an original member of the Hillsdale Golf and Country Club and the Chevra Kadisha B'nai Jacob synagogue. He curled at the Greystone Curling Club, was an active member at the Montefiore Club and the YM-YWHA, and he was involved in a range of charitable and philanthropic activities related to the Jewish community. He gave his kids the best of everything, took the family on great vacations, and eventually bought a condominium in Florida, where he and my grandmother would spend many wonderful winters, often joined and surrounded by their many children and grandchildren.
My Aunt Bonnie once told me that as the last of the five kids, she missed out on that time when my grandfather was new to fatherhood. My perspective was completely different. I was the first of Sol's eventual ten grandchildren. My grandfather was only 45 when I was born, younger than I am now, and to me he was a force, full of life.
I have such vivid memories of my grandfather from those days. I picture him at the head of his dining room table, always eating faster than anyone else, and never missing a beat in the various conversations taking place around the room. He ran that room. I recall him pretending to “wash his hands”, while we kids would hide the afikoman at Passover in anticipation of getting a cash payoff once he found it. I see him sitting in his recliner in his bedroom, watching golf on TV on Sunday afternoons. He spent thousands of hours in that spot. I recall his sleight-of-hand magic tricks and his mastery of the harmonica. He was a man of great stories and many abilities, and my respect for him and what he had endured and achieved in his life deepened as I matured.
As I grew older and started a career of my own, my grandfather and I would often talk about business, particularly after he closed Continental and no longer worked. I could tell that he really missed the action. He would tell me stories of his buying trips to Czechoslovakia (he called it “Czecho”) and the time he spent working in Providence, Rhode Island, where I also had an office. He'd often start those conversations with “Tell me what's going on in the world, I'm not out there anymore, and I want to know.” It bothered him because he was so bright and so curious. He was fascinated with new technology, and his eyes lit up whenever I would show him my latest gadget. I would have to remind myself that he grew up at a time when it was still common to get around our city in horse-drawn vehicles, and yet he was highly engaging in conversation until well into his late eighties.
A product of his generation, Grandpa Sol was clearly what is referred to these days as “old school”. I very much doubt that he ever changed a diaper, loaded or unloaded a dishwasher or did any carpools back in the 1950s and 1960s. He was the classic authoritative father figure from that era, a provider who would stop at nothing to protect his family. He was a man of dependable routines, from his days at the office to his Saturdays at the golf course, to his Saturday nights out with couples that he and my grandmother were friends with.
When I was younger, I had a much different dynamic with each of my mother's parents. While my grandma Zelda was like a second mother to me, showering me with love, affection, attention and gifts, my grandfather was a much more intimidating presence. Formed by his childhood experiences, having fought for and earned everything he had, at times he showed less patience with me. There was something of an edge to him.
I recall him lecturing me for wanting to order a steak at Ruby Foo's when I was around ten years old. “You don't order steak at Ruby Foo's”, he told me. “You want a steak, you go to Moishe's”. Several years later, he was annoyed that I had received gift certificates to Eaton's for my bar mitzvah. He would have much preferred that they come from The Bay, because The Bay was one of his biggest customers. Why should I support their competition? It's funny how these things stay with us.
As Grandpa grew older and slowed down, he softened a lot and became more reflective. I suppose that's quite common, and that is the grandpa that all my younger cousins knew and loved.
I knew from my grandmother that while she had always done her absolute best to please Sol and to take care of him and the children, making great personal sacrifices along the way, she sometimes found it very challenging. Sol was a demanding man, not always easy to please. I grew up thinking that she would always be there to take care of him and that she would outlive him, but the opposite ended up happening. I saw a completely different side of my grandfather once my grandmother fell ill and she could no longer take care of herself, let alone look after him. When Zelda needed him most, Solly, as she called him, became her rock.
During those difficult years, my grandfather demonstrated total devotion to my grandmother's care and well-being. He gave up golf and stopped taking his regular long walks, and spent hours by her side every day, as she struggled with the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. I cannot think of a single moment when he was not with her, doing his best to hold himself together and to ease the pain and suffering of his wife and partner of 67 years. He made a huge difference to her by being there, and I will never forget that. It was during that time that he told me on more than one occasion what a good woman she was and how much he really loved her. I realized then that he had a very deep appreciation for all that she had done for him and the family over the years, and he did everything he could to repay her in kind.
If you live long enough, you are eventually forced to make the difficult transition from the provider to the provided-for. My grandfather's case was no different. Fortunately for him, he lived his final few challenging years at home, surrounded by so many of those who loved him. His devoted caregivers Kerry, Ninfa, Zinny, Franklin and Julius were simply incredible, and our family sincerely thanks them for their years of loving service. I want to make special mention of my mother, who dedicated the last ten years of her life to caring for her two parents, both of whom are now at peace. A parent could not ask for a better child than my mother.
Now that my Grandpa's journey has come to an end, it is important for those of us who knew him to remember and focus on the good memories and the happy times, to think of the measure of the man and all that he meant to those around him.
I imagine him and my grandma together again, her gliding around their kitchen looking after her home and her family, and him eating a bowl of her delicious chicken soup, eagerly slurping it down so that he can get back to the bedroom and not miss that next round of golf on TV.
Grandpa, I know that I speak on behalf of our entire family in saying that we loved you dearly and that we will miss you. We know that you did your very best for us, and we express gratitude and appreciation for that. May you rest in peace, and may your memory be forever blessed.
Eulogy for Dadwritten & delivered by Bonnie Mayoff
This feels like the end of an era for me and my family. My mother and father were married for 67 years and together they were the nucleus of a very close family with a home we could always go to for support under any circumstances.
My dad had a very difficult upbringing. His mother died when he was only 4 years old and he spent months living in an orphanage. He left school out of necessity as a young boy in order to help support his family. It was in part due to his rough start in life though, that he became the strong, persistent, and dedicated man that he was.
He went into the army as a young man and it was during this time that he began to ponder ideas of how to make a future for himself and his soon to be bride, our mom, Zelda. He followed his entrepreneurial instincts and ultimately became a very successful and respected man in our community. He never gave up trying to better himself and he always followed through with anything that he began. He worked ‘so' hard to be able to give his immediate and extended family the kind of life that he could only have dreamed of as a young boy. My dad was straight forward and direct, never beating around the bush. You always knew how he felt and where he stood on any given matter. He was generous to a fault, respectful, reliable and he cared deeply for his wife and children.
My father was the person who taught me how to ride my first bicycle when I was a young girl. He taught me how to swing a golf club and how to curl. Richard and I earned our first dimes working at Continental Jewellery when we were kids. He used to ask me to play piano for his friends when they'd come for cocktails on a Saturday night, even though I wasn't good at all. He was proud of me. He took all of his kids tobogganing on Mount Royal in frigid temperatures and at night warmed us up by lighting the fireplace in our basement on Dufferin Rd. He came to my ballet recital where I had a dance that called for me to jump high in the air, a feat that he thought was spectacular. He let me go on a school trip to France and then came all the way to the small town of Mont Pellier on a long train ride just for one night to visit me. He calmed me down when I smashed my mother's car into the side of the garage wall one night at 2 am.
We could count on my dad to be home at 6 pm and my mom and I would greet him with kisses when he walked in after a hard day at the office. Our family was then ready to have our nightly dinners together. My dad made sure that we all had proper table manners, which emphasized chewing food with our mouths closed. On Saturdays after a day on the golf course, dad would bring sacks of corn on the cob home from the best farmer in the Laurentians. Being carried asleep to my bed from his on Saturday nights awaiting my parents return, and enjoying Jasmine's restaurant on Sunday nights were traditions I'll always remember.
My dad also could have been on commercials to promote any food item. He would make anything he ate look irresistible. He would eat an apple and make it look so delicious you'd have to take one yourself.
He showed great affection for all his grandchildren, being so thrilled to have everyone together. It was unfortunate that my own three children were not privileged to have lived in the same city as their grandparents. Having had the absolute pleasure of spending a ton of time with my own grandparents I always knew that my children missed out on living in close proximity to my mom and dad.
Because of him, mentioning my surname, Mayoff to anyone in the entire city made me proud and still does. My dad was always looked upon in high regard and of course all the women always blushed telling me how good looking he was. He was our King and our pillar of strength to lean on when needed. He was loved tremendously by his family and will be dearly missed. We all love you dad.
In honor of Sol MayoffComposed by Wendy Kyles Mayoff
Yeshua Zelig better known as Sol
Never knew that he would have it all
When he was born in nineteen twenty
His world was not a place of plenty
His dad's first wife had passed away
Leaving five children alone in dismay
So his father found Dora bringing Fritzie in tow
And soon Sol was born and the income was low
A tragedy happened to this family of seven
When Dora, Sol's mum, was summoned to heaven
With so many young ones and no mum to care
Sol's young life was stricken with losses unfair
After time in an orphanage away from his kin
His mum's sister, Freda, came to step in
She gave birth to Doris so now there were eight
In the depression years this was difficult fate
Although times were tough and Sol had to fight
He had natural gifts, was ingenious and bright
But sometimes he couldn't live up to the roughs
Especially when making mitts from men's pant cuffs
Sol looked after his brothers and sisters with care
And later in life for them always was there
So when Zelda Schwartz saw she had quite a fan
She knew that he would make a great family man
Enlisted and married, a soldier and wife
They set out to Kingston to start their new life
Zelda sold parts and watchstraps at the army canteen
While Sol trained as a soldier and times were still lean
But they scrimped and they saved all their pay
Because they knew Donna was soon on the way
Sol sold watchbands to stores and the odd watchmaker
When, through J.L Sabbath, Sol met Sam Baker.
They pooled their resources and began quite a feat
By wheeling and dealing and pounding the street
They took lots of chances with so little to spend
And had no idea of just where it would end.
Combinations of Austrian stones and bright metal
Became a great business they called Continental
In the meantime his Zelda had work of her own
She was raising her family in a warm, gracious home.
Sol worked very hard to make very sure
That none of his children a lack would endure
The jewelry company got a great name
So with his success Sol took up his game
He needed his gold and his pals at the club
Cause the rest of his life was such a hub bub
But his work, his care and his effort had brought
The security and comfort he always had sought
With community and family Sol shared all his gain
Saw his children through life's joys and sometimes great pain
He's fulfilled his dreams he's proud of what's done
Because from a hard place he battled and won
With grand and great grandkids to fill up a hall
Pride rests in the heart of this strong man named Sol
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